Cambridge University has come up with six steps to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.
The results of the three-year project can be found in the book ‘Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open’, which is available free on the Web. The site also includes samples from the 12-track album ‘With Both Eyes Open,’ available from Amazon.
The team from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering set out to tackle the implications of the massive increase in production of energy-intensive materials like metals, ceramics and polymers over the past century. They estimate that we now make ten times the bodyweight of every person alive in steel, aluminium, cement, plastics and paper every year, accounting for a fifth of the world’s energy.
However, identifying measures that could make a real difference was easier said than done, according to Dr Julian Allwood, a low-carbon materials specialist who led the research.
“Energy intensive industry is already highly motivated to reduce its energy consumption because energy purchasing is about one-third of its costs,” he said.
“Overall, it doesn’t have many further efficiency options left, and we also have to face the fact that demand for these materials is growing, and likely to double if unchecked. If we want a sustainable future, we need to reduce the impact of producing them, and our biggest option for achieving this is to reduce our thirst for new material.”
The team’s six steps are:
1. Use less metal by design
2. Reduce yield losses
3. Divert manufacturing scrap for use elsewhere
4. Re-use old components rather than recycling
5. Extend the design lives of products
6. Reduce final demand.
The potential impact of making even some of these changes could be huge, the researchers believe. For example, they estimate that optimising steel beams for buildings could reduce the emissions from production by almost a third.
Allwood is working with industry to develop real-life case-studies. “If we can provide examples that people can copy,” he says, “it greatly reduces the barrier that stops governments and companies from implementing these ideas and helping them to spread.”